Some of them were poisoned, others died of heart attacks, more than a few died from extreme violence. What tied them all together were that they were high-profile Russians who likely possessed compromising information about Vladimir Putin’s regime.

According to USA today, thirty-eight Russians, inside Russia and abroad, have died under mysterious circumstances since the beginning of 2014.

Some of those who died are relatively known in the West.

For instance, former Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was gunned down near the Kremlin, an area known for its extraordinary surveillance. At the scene of the murder, there were 18 cameras recording the location. However, according to Russia, all of the cameras for that location were turned off that day for “maintenance“.

In 2006, Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy, died in a British hospital from polonium poisoning. The specific type of polonium used in his murder, isotope 210-polonium, is hard to make and requires access to experts and a nuclear reactor, resources that only a state is likely to possess. Putin had motive to kill Litvinenko; he had fled to the United Kingdom in 2000 and was suspected of working with the British intelligence community.

Litvinenko had also become close friends with Putin antagonist Boris A. Berezovsky, a Russian oligarch who publicly claimed that Putin was behind a wave of terrorism that led to his first election victory and resuscitation of Russia’s conflict with Chechnya. In 2016, ten years after Litvinenko’s death, the British government released an official report and stating that Vladimir Putin probably approved the murder of Litvinenko. In 2013, Litvinenko’s friend, Berezovsky, was later found hanging at his ex-wife’s mansion.

On his deathbed, Litvinenko said the following:

“…this may be the time to say one or two things to the person responsible for my present condition. You may succeed in silencing me but that silence comes at a price. You have shown yourself to be as barbaric and ruthless as your most hostile critics have claimed. You have shown yourself to have no respect for life, liberty or any civilized value. You have shown yourself to be unworthy of your office, to be unworthy of the trust of civilized men and women. You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life. May God forgive you for what you have done, not only to me but to beloved Russia and its people.“